One basic test for a VPN service is to check how long a VPN client takes to connect to a VPN server and get online. For our 2018 reviews, we installed each vendor's VPN client software on an HP EliteBook x360 1020 G2 laptop running Windows 10, an iPad mini and a Samsung Galaxy S8 Android phone. (In 2017, we used a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga notebook, an Apple MacBook Air, a Samsung Galaxy S6 phone and the iPad mini.) We used each device with each VPN service we tested.
If you’re seriously concerned about government surveillance—we explain above why that should be most people’s last consideration when choosing a VPN—some expert sites like privacytools.io recommend avoiding services with a corporate presence in the US or UK. Such experts warn about the “14 eyes,” a creepy name for a group of countries that share intelligence info, particularly with the US. IVPN is based in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory. We don’t think that makes you any worse off than a company based in Switzerland, Sweden, or anywhere else—government surveillance efforts around the world are so complicated and clandestine that few people have the commitment, skills, or technology to avoid it completely. But because Gibraltar’s status has been a topic of debate in other deep dives on VPNs, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention it.
Initially, the routing table for each router includes only the networks that are physically connected. A RIP router periodically sends announcements that contain its routing table entries to inform other local RIP routers of the networks it can reach. RIP version 1 uses IP broadcast packets for its announcements. RIP version 2 can use multicast or broadcast packets for its announcements.
You heard us right on that last bit: a number of VPN providers have systems in place where they will accept gift cards from major retailers (that are totally unrelated to their business) like Wal-Mart or Target in exchange for VPN credit. You could buy a gift card to any number of big box stores using cash, redeem it for VPN credit, and avoid using your personal credit card or checking information.
Proximity: Choosing a server close to your own location will result in a speedier connection. If you’re in Asia and want to access American content, then choose a server on the west coast USA. If you’re in Europe, then use an East Coast server. If you know the location of the server hosting the content you’re trying to access, you can also choose a VPN server near there.
I have a question. I subscribed to yearly plan of Vypr VPN about 6 months ago in the Chicago, US. Now, I have freshly moved to India on a job trip. My concern is that I am unable to access Netflix US with Vypr VPN. Also, the BBC iPlayer is taking too long to buffer videos. I believe Vypr is one of the fastest VPN services in industry and Golden Frog surely doesn’t compromises a bit when it comes to their standards. But, still I am left with sluggish network speed. Can you help me with it?
To choose the best VPN for you, don’t just look at the price, not least because many services offer massive discounts if you take out a longer term subscription. Start with the basics: how many simultaneous connections can you have? Are there particular security protocols you want to use? Does the provider have servers in the places you’ll want to use it from and the places you want to connect to? How much data will they log about you, and how long do they keep it for?
This is important to understand. Consumer VPN services protect your transmission from your location to their location, not from your location all the way to the destination application you're using. If you think about it, this makes sense: A consumer VPN service is operated by a completely different company than, for example, Facebook or your bank.
Due to licensing restrictions, iOS developers previously couldn’t implement OpenVPN connections directly inside their applications. Since that changed in mid-2018, a few providers, including IVPN and PrivateInternetAccess, have added native OpenVPN support to their apps. This makes a secure connection on any Apple device much easier than the old method that required a clunky third-party application and complicated connection profiles. Though we haven’t done performance tests on any updated iOS apps yet, our limited use of the updated IVPN app worked without any problems. Going forward, we wouldn’t consider a VPN provider that doesn’t include native OpenVPN support on iOS.
Likewise, if you're connecting via a nation's local carrier, that carrier may be intercepting your traffic, particularly if you're a non-native of that nation. In that situation, if you must connect back to applications and services at home, using a VPN is quite literally the least you can do. Also, keep in mind that if you use your phone's hotspot to connect your computer to the internet, you'll want to use a VPN on your computer as well.
In the most recent round of testing, we've also looked at how many virtual servers a given VPN company uses. A virtual server is just what it sounds like—a software-defined server running on server hardware that might have several virtual servers onboard. The thing about virtual servers is that they can be configured to appear as if they are in one country when they are actually being hosted somewhere else. That's an issue if you're especially concerned about where you web traffic is traveling. It's a bit worrisome to choose one location and discover you're actually connected somewhere else entirely.
Jurisdiction – PureVPN has a fairly strong jurisdictional advantage. Hong-Kong is far from the watchful eyes of European governments and the 14 Eyes alliance. The state of the Internet in Hong Kong is one of the freest in the world. The government in Hong-Kong does not sweep online content under the rug of censorship. However, acts like distribution of child pornography are criminalized (as they should) by law and fall under the cloak of censorship. So, the jurisdiction of PureVPN should be a reason enough to compel privacy-conscious users to get this VPN.
IP / DNS Leak Test – Security is another crucial factor in my best review process since one of the main purposes of a VPN is to enhance the security of users. Some poor VPN services leak the IP or DNS of the user, which can expose their activities and identity online. It goes without saying that such VPN services are a waste of money and must be avoided at all costs.
Known for its speed, ease of use and native clients, HideIPVPN supports Windows, Mac, iOS and Android platforms. Its Smart DNS service is known to be able to unblock some sites. The service supports a variety of protocols, which include SSTP, OpenVPN, SoftEther, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec. With the service, torrenting is allowed although only on German and Dutch servers, this is due to the fact that it only has seven server locations in North America and Europe.
Hotspot Shield VPN works in most countries, but that doesn’t mean it’s always legal to use a VPN in a specific country. If you have any doubts about the legality of using a VPN in a certain country, always consult a qualified lawyer because laws can change quickly. If you’re still unsure, then it’s best to play it safe and abide by the most conservative guidelines of a country.
HMA Pro (reviewed here) is slightly more complicated, but it’s far from difficult to understand. If you want to select your desired virtual location click the Location mode tab, click on the location name, and then choose your preferred location from the list. Once that’s done, click the slider button that says Disconnected. Once it flips to Connected, you’re ready to roll.
ExpressVPN sets the bar when it comes to download speed. It’s always near the top of the rankings, albeit never at the peak. Consistency is a defining factor of Express; volatility is rarely an issue that affects the outcome of test results. Connections drop a little more often than we’d like them to, but the company has done a remarkable job considering the size of the network it manages.
To stress-test the VPN services, we do things a little differently. Instead of letting Ookla find the best (read: closest) test server, we select a specific test server in Anchorage, Alaska, for both the VPN testing and the baseline test. We then connect to a VPN server in Australia, and calculate a percent change between the two. Usually, this results in a noticeable impact on latency as well as download and upload speeds. It helps give a sense of how the VPN would perform when you're traveling abroad or using the VPN to spoof your location.
Every VPN will tell you it is does not track your internet activity or is a “zero logs” VPN. In reality, delivering high performance across an extensive global network is impossible unless you are monitoring at least some connection details of your users. You could read a ton of privacy policies and terms of service to find out exactly what’s collected and for how long it’s stored or let us do that for you and just check the logging policy section of our review that explains this in plain language. Ideally you want a VPN that does not log your IP address at all and limits timestamp logging to just the date of your connection.
The service’s no logs policy means that it does not store user online activity data and promises not to release them unless required by law, ensuring that your information is in safe hands. What sets this service apart from others is its refund policy. Users are able to use it for up to 10 hours or 10GB of bandwith and still get a refund, a far more generous policy than what others have to offer.
If you’re going to bother with a VPN, you should spend money on a good one—don’t trust a free VPN. Security and privacy cost money, and if you aren’t paying for them, the provider has an incentive to make money from marketers at your privacy’s expense. Though price doesn’t always equal quality, a few dollars a month more for a better experience is worth it for something you’ll use on a regular basis.
Compatibility – Device compatibility is something that has become more important with the passage of time. With an increased number of brands of computers and advances in mobile technology, virtually any software today should be compatible with various devices and operating systems. You should always make sure your VPN is compatible with your device before you make up your mind.
Thankfully, there's a workaround for this problem. Instead of using the VPN app from the company from which you've purchased a subscription, you can download the standalone OpenVPN app. Open it, and you can enter your subscription information from the VPN company you've decided to work with. The OpenVPN app will then connect to the VPN company's servers using our preferred protocol.
CyberGhost is transparent about its company structure, posting photos and bios on its website of everyone from the CEO to the cleaning lady, and privacy fanatics will like that the company is based in Romania rather than the U.S. But CyberGhost's full-service subscription price is among the most expensive, unless you pay for two or three years up front.
Because the firewall does not have the encryption keys for each VPN connection, it can only filter on the plaintext headers of the tunneled data, meaning that all tunneled data passes through the firewall. However, this is not a security concern because the VPN connection requires an authentication process that prevents unauthorized access beyond the VPN server.
When we last tested VPNs for macOS, TunnelBear was the fastest VPN on that platform. It had the best latency performance for both domestic and international testing, and the second-best upload performance in both tests, trailing Private internet Access in the domestic test and PureVPN in the international test. It had the second best international download test, but improved download speeds in the domestic test by 22.1 percent, the best overall showing for VPN download speeds on the Mac.
However, VPN speed is significantly influenced by a variety of factors including your Internet connection, VPN protocol you choose, and the device you are connected to. All these major factors result in speed undulation and interruptions while you connect a VPN on your PC or mobile device. However, with a few optimization techniques, you can turn your VPN into a fast VPN connection in less than 60 seconds. We will discuss this later how you can optimize your VPN connection for optimum speed. But first let see how we have analyzed VPN services to picked the fastest VPN.
Consumers use a private VPN service, also known as a VPN tunnel, to protect their online activity and identity. By using an anonymous VPN service, a user's Internet traffic and data remain encrypted, which prevents eavesdroppers from sniffing Internet activity. VPN services are especially useful when accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots because the public wireless services might not be secure. In addition to public Wi-Fi security, a private VPN service also provides consumers with uncensored Internet access and can help prevent data theft and unblock websites.
Traditional VPNs are characterized by a point-to-point topology, and they do not tend to support or connect broadcast domains, so services such as Microsoft Windows NetBIOS may not be fully supported or work as they would on a local area network (LAN). Designers have developed VPN variants, such as Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS), and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocols (L2TP), to overcome this limitation.
That said, there are many other ways to track movements across the web. There may be, for example, a tracker inside an ad on website A and another tracker from the same company on website B. By correlating data from both of those trackers, it's possible to assemble a picture of an individual's browsing history. Installing a tracker blocker such as TrackOFF or Privacy Badger from the EFF is a good idea. Fortunately, many VPNs also say they block ads and trackers on the network level.
Private Internet Access, or PIA, is one of the most visible, privacy-focused VPNs available. Because of its reputation and advocacy concerning online privacy and security, it has also been a Wirecutter staff pick. But whether you prioritize speed and performance or trust and transparency, our top pick is a better bet. If you find PIA attractive because of its low price, note that spending just a little more on TorGuard will buy you much better performance.
Servers – Boasting over 2,000 servers, PureVPN’s network is like a giant tentacle monster with multiple servers located in over 140 countries of the world! Geographically, PureVPN covers more locations around the world than any other VPN I have come across. You can choose to automatically connect to the best VPN server depending on the purpose you wish to use the VPN for or choose your own preferred server manually. It takes a relatively long time to connect to the server compared to other VPN providers, which is one of the downsides of this VPN. But as soon as you are connected, you will experience that joy of having unprecedented freedom on the web.
All that being said, we currently name TorGuard as the fastest VPN service. It doesn't take the top spot in all of our tests, but has remarkably low latency and had the best performance in the all-important download tests. Fittingly, it offers many add-ons such as dedicated IP addresses that, along with its speed, will appeal to the BitTorrent users it is designed to protect.